Why Did God Keep Moses From Seeing The Promised Land?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about God preventing Moses from entering into the Promised Land.

Moses’ Beginnings

Moses may be the most prominent man of all for the Jews.  Even the laws were called the Mosaic Laws which had to do with the sacrificial system and the stringent priesthood requirements.  Moses also brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai and brought them to a nation that was already in idolatry, worshiping a golden calf.  Moses met God but didn’t know it at first.  He saw a bush burning in the field but not being consumed (Ex 3:3). It’s not unusual to see bushes burning in that part of the world but they usually burn up and this one didn’t, so Moses went over to take a closer look at it and heard “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am” (Ex 3:4b) and said “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Ex 3:6).  God told Moses that He would lead the nation of Israel out of the land of Egypt, where they were being held in severe bondage.

Why Did God Keep Moses From Seeing The Promised Land

Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai

Moses and Pharaoh

God had previously commanded Moses to bring God’s people out of Egypt but Moses resisted and made excuses until finally “Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand” (Ex 4:20). Moses first instructions from God were for him to say “to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son’” (Ex 4:22-23).  Of course we know that Pharaoh refused time and again to let Israel go and despite the many destructive plagues on Egypt, Pharaoh hardened his heart until finally God did take his first born son and only then was Israel allowed to leave Egypt and begin the great Exodus.

Anger Issues?

Remember when Moses came down from the mountain bringing the Ten Commandments with him?  Do you remember when he threw the first stone tablets with the Ten Commandments down to the ground that were written by the very finger of God (Ex 31:18)?  When Moses “came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain” (Ex 32:19), just as Israel had been shattering them already by their idolatry and worshiping the golden calf. This might have been the first sign of Moses’ only weakness; he had a temper.  Who could blame him?  Israel was one of the most ungrateful, unthankful, and grumbling of people during their wilderness journeying.

Disobedience to God

When the Israelites grumbled about not having anything to eat, God sent them manna but “Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them” (Ex 16:20) which meant Israel had disobeyed God and tried to save some of it for the next day. When the sons of Eliab rebelled against Moses authority, “Moses was very angry and said to the Lord, ‘Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, and I have not harmed one of them’” (Num 16:15).  When God told Moses to avenge the nation of Israel against Midian, the armies left survivors, which they weren’t supposed to leave “And Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war” (Num 31:14).  Moses went too far once when the people grumbled again for water and so God told Moses to speak to the rock and there would be sufficient water for everyone, including the livestock (Num 20:8) so what did Moses do?  Did he speak to the rock?  No, “Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, ‘Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?’  And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock” (Num20:10-11) and “the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them’” (Num 20:12). Disobedience was the reason that God did not allow Moses to enter the Promised Land, so what happened to Moses?  God buried him in a hidden place so they wouldn’t end up worshiping his bones, probably “no one knows the place of his burial to this day” (Deut 34:6) and even at 120 years of age “when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended” (Deut 34:7).


I cannot categorically say that Moses was not allowed into the Promised Land because he had temper issues or that it was because of his anger which made him disobey God’s commands but it does appear to be the incident at Mirabah (means “quarreling”). All we know for certain is that Moses is still alive and will be in the kingdom of heaven as he’s listed in the so-called “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11.   He’s certainly one of the heroes of the faith to me because “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Heb 11:24-26) and “By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them” (Heb 11:28).  Moses doesn’t have to worry about crossing over into the Promised Land anymore; I believe he’s already there.

Something more for you to read: Moses From the Bible

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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